Terror attacks becoming harder to detect, says New Zealand expert

Terror groups are losing ground in the Middle East but unsophisticated attacks such as the one at Westminster are hard ...
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Terror groups are losing ground in the Middle East but unsophisticated attacks such as the one at Westminster are hard to predict.

Unsophisticated terrorists are unpredictable, and make it harder for governments to detect and foil attacks, a New Zealand terror specialist says.

Massey University teaching fellow, John Battersby, speaking after the terror attack in London that killed at least 4 people - which included the offender - and injured dozens, said the problem for intelligence agencies was that the attacker "only does it once, and with technology that is readily available".

"What we have just seen in London is an example of this leaderless type of terror attack, with a low-level of logistical planning," said Battersby.

Massey University teaching fellow, John Battersby, is a specialist in the study of terrorism.
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Massey University teaching fellow, John Battersby, is a specialist in the study of terrorism.

"It is quite different to the highly co-ordinated attacks, and it is hard for intel agencies to predict them, even if a suspect is on a watchlist."

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While Battersby believed New Zealand was "remarkably resilient to terrorism over the past 15 years", he said agencies should still be aware the threat this type of attack brought.

The scene outside Parliament in London after the deadly knife attack.
GETTY

The scene outside Parliament in London after the deadly knife attack.

"Anyone who is inspired enough, for any cause, could use this tactic, and we need to think how we would deal with that if it would happen," he said.

"Our society is different, we are a lot further away, and we are often not directly affected, and I wouldn't want people to over-react. But on the other hand we need to think about the fact there is a certain tactic which is becoming a preferred method to deliver terror.

"As it was in Nice and Berlin, the technology used is unsophisticated and you may not see it coming."

Forensic police investigate a truck at the scene of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France.
GETTY IMAGES

Forensic police investigate a truck at the scene of a terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France.

In July last year 86 people were killed and 434 people injured when a 19-tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day along the Riviera in Nice, France. 

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Five months later in December a lone attacker drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market that left 12 people dead and 56 injured.

Battersby, from the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at Massey University in Wellington, is a specialist in the study of terrorism research, and said the latest attack was another example of ISIS and other terrorist groups losing ground in the Middle East.

"Their communications have been disrupted and they are trying to inspire these kind of unsophisticated attacks in the west. The larger organised attacks won't go away, but we will see more of these because they are much harder to pick up.

"One thing that can be done is to focus on the ability to react to it. Even though this latest attack resulted in terrible fatalities, the authorities did seem to react quickly."

 - Stuff

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